B.C.’s justice system is in crisis and needs more money, a major overhaul of legislation and attention by candidates in the provincial election campaign, says the Canadian Bar Association.
Delays in the justice system are rising and there is not enough money to pay for necessary staff and judges, said a report entitled An Agenda for Justice, released by the B.C. branch of the association on Tuesday.
“We are still in a crisis, which is why justice needs to have attention during this [spring’s election] campaign,” said Kerry Simmons, president of the B.C branch.
The government has cut the justice system by more than $113 million since 2002, leading to delays and underfunded legal aid, said the report.
The branch outlined a four-pillar approach to reform the system, including increased funding, more court staff and judges, and updates to numerous pieces of legislation that would make it easier and fairer to do things like execute a will, grant power of attorney, proceed with civil action, conduct business transactions, solve disputes and navigate the family law system.
In most cases, the legislative fixes could be done within six months because the research and consultation is already complete, Simmons said.
The government announced a justice reform action plan last October, after a white paper review, and has hired nine new judges.
The bar association generally supported the government action plan, Simmons said.
“We started to see some of those changes being recommended. … but again, things need to happen more quickly,” she said.
For example, the government passed legislation to modernize the Wills, Estates and Succession Act in 2011, but has yet to actually enact the changes into law, said Simmons.
Justice Minister Shirley Bond said she appreciates the report and has met with Simmons.
“B.C. is facing the same challenges as other jurisdictions and that's why we're making it a priority to outline and pursue an action plan for achieving a timely, accessible justice system,” Bond said in a statement.
NDP critic Leonard Krog said the bar association report highlights how badly the Liberals have mismanaged the justice system over a decade in power.
“You were far better off in British Columbia dealing with our justice system a decade ago,” he said.
Neither party has yet released its election platform, but Krog said he hopes the NDP’s proposal will deal with most of the points made in the bar association’s report.
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